This is a guest post by Joseph Weissman
The police visit to my house last November to tell me to delete my blog took place at the request of the Reverent Sizer and Dr Anthony McRoy. Dr Anthony McRoy has explained why he asked the police to talk to me. He writes:
This brings me to the point of my agreeing to the police talking to Mr Weissman. His comments about me – misrepresenting me as a supporter of Al-Qaida – placed me and my wife and children in physical danger. My children came across Weissman’s comments once when surfing the web. Imagine if there had another major Al-Qaida operation against the UK like 7/7. What if people were killed – and then people in my neighbourhood, or pupils at my children’s school, surfing the web, came across Weissman’s falsehood that I supported Al-Qaida. In the fear and outrage following such an incident, my family could have become the targets of revengeful violence.
I’d like to take a step back.
This is the paragraph which I believe Dr McRoy is referring to:
Meet Dr Anthony McRoy, lecturer at the Wales Evangelical School of Theology. Seismic Shock has already criticised McRoy for his praise of Hezbollah, and now examines his apparent admiration for Al Qaida, and terrorist leaders Osama Bin Laden and Abu Musab al-Zarqawi.
The rest of the article consists of a number of sourced quotes from articles written by Dr McRoy which I found disturbing and deplorable. In particular, I found this article from the Muslim Weekly on the “legacy” of Al Qaeda’s Abu Musab Al Zarqawi deeply problematic. In the piece, Dr McRoy compares the ‘martyr’ to Che Guevara, and concludes:
“The next time ‘martyrs’ attack London, or even New York, the people to blame will not only be the mujahideen themselves, nor even just Al-Qaida, but the Neo-Cons and their British lackeys whose deceit and aggression in Iraq allowed Al-Qaida to regroup, win new members and supporters, and gain immediate experience of fighting US security forces in order to both recruit and train the next wave of would-be martyrs to penetrate America and carry-out the next 9/11 or 7/7. Indeed, 10/11 and 8/7 when they happen may well be the greatest legacy of Zarqawi.”
I did not say that Dr McRoy supported Al Qaida’s goals or motives. My impression was that he “apparently admired” Zarqawi’s cleverness, compared him to an iconic Left wing revolutionary, and concluded with a condemnation of the “lackeys” who were fighting against him. I strongly disagreed with the argument and tone of that controversial piece, and said so, just as hundreds of commenters do on the Guardian website, every day.
Dr McRoy also criticises my take on his paper given at a messianic Khomeinist conference in Iran, entitled “The solace of the savior and Hezbollah’s victory: belief in the Mahdi and Jesus as an encouragement to resistance”. That conference “enjoys the enthusiastic backing of President Ahmadinejad. He was the introductory speaker”.
Dr McRoy now says:
At the conference I attended, all the Muslims were excited about the outcome of the Hezbollah-Israeli conflict that year. Since the subject of the conference is Mahdism and Messianic expectation, I thought it appropriate to examine the role of Mahdist expectation in the history of Hezbollah, and compare and contrast it with Messianic expectation in Christianity. The linking theme was Justice, since Muslim expectations of the Mahdi are that he will ‘fill the world with justice and equity’. Naturally, after offering an academic description (not endorsement) of this in Shi’ism and more expressly in the Iranian Revolution and Hezbollah, I looked at the Christian approach to Justice – and the means to achieve it – obviously, one that was non-violent.
Frankly, I would have thought it ridiculous that anyone would assume that I somehow believed in Islamic eschatology, especially as it influenced Khomeinist ideas.
I do not think that this was a ridiculous assumption at all.
There were a number of passages in that paper that worried me. You can read them here. In summary, it seemed to me that Dr McRoy was drawing a provocative – and contentious – parallel between Jesus’s suffering at the hands of Roman and Jewish authorities, the martyrdom of Hussein, and the Hezbollah’s inspiration by the Mahdi to fight Israel:
Just as the Mahdi will avenge the blood of Hussein with the blood of Oppressors, so the Lebanese avenged the blood of their sons and daughters with the blood of Israeli soldiers.
Hezbollah also used one of its own special types of resistance against the Zionist enemy that is the suicide attacks. These attacks dealt great losses to the enemy on all thinkable levels such as militarily and mentally. The attacks also raised the moral [i.e. morale] across the whole Islamic nation.
Thus, we can truly say that Hezbollah’s victory over the Israeli bombardment in 2006 was the Triumphant Jihad of the Mahdi. The fact of the Mahdi’s inspiration of Hezbollah’s jihad was hidden from the eyes of the Israelis.
[L]ike Hussein, Jesus was cruelly murdered by His religious opponents, suffering scourging (Mark 15:15) and Crucifixion at the hands of the pagan Romans (Mark 15:24), incited by the Jewish priesthood (John 19:6).
It worries me that McRoy thinks that here he is merely expressing a dispassionate academic opinion. He must surely have had some idea of how these ideas would be interpreted by his audience in the Islamic Republic of Iran. The language he uses in this lecture, and certainly in the Muslim Weekly pieces, suggests partisan engagement with the subject, not mere ‘scholarly analysis’.
I also find it odd that McRoy will criticise the apocalyptic drive of Christian Zionism whilst having nothing but kind words for the similarly apocalyptic drive of Khomeinist Islam.
My final criticism of Dr McRoy is one which, at the time, I thought was fair. I now would like to withdraw it for reasons I explain below.
I think that Dr McRoy, in the past, has tended to tell his audiences what he thinks that they want him to hear. In one post, I compared and contrasted a talk to Cheam Baptist Church with his paper in Iran, and concluded:
Anthony McRoy says different things to different audiences, and thinks that, whilst he should tell other people to preach the Christian message to Muslims, when he himself addresses a Muslim audience, the most important thing to talk about is resistance to Israel.
There is evidence of this approach in the paper in Iran, in the Che/”Lackeys” article about Zarqawi in the Muslim Weekly, and in another article which originally appeared in the Muslim Weekly, in which Dr McRoy says of Ahmadinejad:
Those meeting Ahmadinejad commented how intelligent, humble, charismatic, and charming he was. Surprisingly, the US delegates seemed especially taken with him. Personally, I tend to be cautious of all politicians whatever their nationality, but I could why he worries America – not because of the nuclear issue, but because he is such a contrasting alternative for people in the region to the corrupt, self-interested pro-US despots that litter the Muslim world. Recent polls in the region show that Ahmadinejad is vastly popular. The Sunni Arab delegates lauded him. Certainly, it was wise of Bush to decline Ahmadinejad’s offer a debate. Those who remember the way George Galloway wiped the floor with Senator Coleman will have an idea of what would happen.
Not a word of criticism of the man: only praise for his talents.
Dr McRoy now says in response:
I remember writing a parallel article for Evangelicals Now (which Mr Weissman saw fit NOT to reproduce) where I elaborated on this, expressing disappointment that Ahmadinejad did not address the Embassy hostage issue. Please note that I did NOT say that I found him ‘intelligent, humble, charismatic, and charming’ -rather that was the reaction of others. I then made a descriptive analogy of his ability and manner in answering questions to explain why it would not have been a good idea for Bush to have debated him – but note that I said that Blair could have done so. Acknowledging someone’s debating ability and manner is NOT the same as endorsing his policies.
He makes my point. The article for Evangelicals Now criticises Ahmadinejad, but the one for Muslim Weekly does not.
I now want to explain why I think that my criticism of Dr McRoy is no longer fair. Dr McRoy reveals:
Last year I was interviewed – not so much as a Christian, but as an academic expert – by Iran-based Press TV on the three revolutions in world history – the French, Russian and Iranian. When I addressed the latter, I was asked whether the revolution had been true to its roots. I answered that the Khomenists got what they wanted, but not the leftists, or secular democrats. Moreover, I observed that religious minorities – Jews, Christians Zoroastrians – were all excluded from political office, apart from dedicated seats in the Majlis (Parliament), and that Christian converts from Islam had often either been executed or ‘mysteriously’ disappeared only to turn-up dead. I also referred to the mistreatment of the Bahais.
I then stated that if Iran wanted to improve its relations with the West it would have to redress these issues – and again, I highlighted that people in the West, whatever their religious opinions, or how secular or even atheists they are, will never accept that a person should be killed because he changed his religion. I was recently interviewed by an Iranian state channel on the revolution, where I largely repeated these points, especially the on the killing of converts. Hardly a case of supporting Iranian policy – nor of failing to say to Iranians what I say to Western audiences. I did not compromise my message to one degree. Needless to say, Mr Weissman never referred to this on his website – perhaps he didn’t know. If he had contacted me in the normal way, I could have told him.
That was a very admirable and brave thing for Dr McRoy to have done. I would hope that, in a similar situation, I would have the courage to enter the lion’s den, and to argue against the wicked policies of the Islamic Republic on PressTV. It contrasts impressively with the approach that so upset me in the Muslim Weekly articles, and in the Mahdi conference in Iran. I am not surprised that Dr McRoy now cannot get a visa to enter Iran.
However, I have an open blog. Anybody can read it, and anybody can post on it. Dr McRoy could have posted the story of his courageous performance on PressTV at any time. I would have immediately have published it, and I would have revised my opinion of him.
Instead, he called the police.
Dr McRoy – did you really believe that a short article critiquing your Zarqawi comment piece endangered your family’s safety? You are a man who has now criticized the Islamic Republic of Iran, on its own television channel. Iran sponsors both Hezbollah and Hamas. Surely they present a greater danger than the mere possibility that a classmate of your children might misunderstand my comments on a website?
By contrast with your performance on PressTV, your decision to send the police round to tell me to delete my blog was not a brave response at all.